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The Front Runner
The Front Runner

The Virginia Film Festival returns to Charlottesville from November 1 to 4,  with a deep and diverse program of more than 150 films and special guests including legendary actor, writer, and filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich; director and producer Allen Hughes, noted activist Martin Luther King III; and more than 100 filmmakers from around the world.

The 2018 Virginia Film Festival will open with Green Book, the powerfully dramatic feature debut for director Peter Farrelly, inspired by a true friendship that transcended race, class, and the 1962 Mason-Dixon Line. The film is the story of world-class black pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), who hires New York bouncer Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) to drive him on a concert tour from Manhattan to the Deep South. The pair must rely on the “Green Book” to guide them to the few establishments that were safe for African-Americans. Confronted with racism and danger – as well as unexpected humanity – they are forced to set aside differences to survive and thrive on the journey of a lifetime.

The Festival will present Roma as the Centerpiece Film. Perhaps the most acclaimed and discussed film on the 2018 major film festival scene, Roma is director Alfonso Cuarón’s (Gravity) most personal work to date – a loving and lovely tribute to the unsung woman who raised him and to so many domestic workers like her. Both intimate in emotion and epic in scope, Roma follows Cleo, a domestic worker in Mexico City in the 1970s, and the upper-middle class family that she cares for. As her personal life and the political climate of Mexico City grow more and more tumultuous, Cleo remains on the sidelines, observing and absorbing the chaos and pain around her. First time actor, Yalitza Aparicio, plays Cleo with a quiet sensitivity. Vanity Fair has said of Roma, “Cuarón shows us wonders to remind us of the aching wonder of it all, how careless we are to not stop and assess everything, to not madly ask every stranger the detail of their lives, because in each may be a story we might come to bitterly regret not knowing.”

From director Jason Reitman comes the Closing Night Film, The Front Runner, a look back at a story that in so many ways set the stage for the political climate we live in today. Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman) came into the 1988 presidential election season as a can’t-miss prospect, combining boyish good looks and an easy charm with a political set of skills honed by a surprisingly successful 1984 campaign. When accusations of an extramarital affair set off an unprecedented media investigation of Hart’s personal life, a new era was born that changed the parameters of what is personal, what is public, and what it means for the way we choose our leaders. The film boasts a stellar cast including Vera Farmiga as Hart’s wife Lee, J.K. Simmons as his embattled campaign manager, and Alfred Molina as Ben Bradlee in this highly-touted adaptation of campaign veteran Matt Bai’s memoir All the Truth is Out.

Spotlight Films

1968: The Year That Changed America – This documentary from Tom Hanks and Mark Herzog is a riveting deep dive into what is considered to be one of the most dangerous and divisive periods in American history, marked by the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, the personal and political upheaval from the Vietnam War, rioting in major cities, the tragedy of Kent State, and more. The VAFF will present two of the series’ four episodes, “Summer” and “Fall”.

Ben is Back – Julia Roberts, Courtney B. Vance, and Academy Award-nominee and rapidly-rising star Lucas Hedges star in this tense and moving look at 24-hours in the life of a family affected by the opioid crisis.

Birds of Passage –Colombia’s entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Birds of Passage, follows an indigenous Wayuu tribe and their involvement in the growing Colombian drug trade over two decades.

The Favourite – Director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) takes us inside Queen Anne’s reign in the early 18th Century. Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is served by close confidante Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) amid a seemingly never-ending war between England and France. When fallen aristocrat Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives on the scene, she threatens the relationship and throws a major wrench into the royal works in what Variety recently called “a perfectly cut diamond of a movie.”

Shoplifters  – The winner of the coveted Palme d’Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, Shoplifters follows a family turning to a life of petty crime to make ends meet in a workshare economy.

L-R: Michelle Rodriguez, Viola Davis, and Elizabeth Debicki star in Twentieth Century Fox’s WIDOWS. Photo Credit: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox.

Widows – From visionary director Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) comes Widows. After their criminal husbands die in an explosion, a group of women, led by Academy Award winner Viola Davis, must pull off their spouses’ next planned heist in order to pay off the crime boss that their recently departed partners owe.

A Tribute to Orson Welles: The Other Side of the Wind with Peter Bogdanovich

The Festival will share a rare insider’s look at one of the most fascinating movie projects in Hollywood history, through the eyes of a legendary Hollywood director, producer, and actor who was in the middle of it all. Peter Bogdanovich returns to the Virginia Film Festival to lead a multi-pronged examination of Orson Welles’ quasi-autobiographical film, The Other Side of the Wind. Bogdanovich not only starred in the film, he was instrumental in its completion, based on a promise he had made to his good friend Welles shortly before the legendary filmmaker’s death in 1985. At that point, the film, which started production in 1971, was still unfinished, and Bogdanovich would go on to play a key role in its difficult-but-fascinating road to completion. It was a road fraught with countless obstacles ranging from rights battles to the complex and painstaking process of recreating the director’s vision from the hundreds of hours of footage he left behind. The film-within-a-film tells the story of filmmaker Jake Hannaford, who, like Welles, was embarking on The Other Side of the Wind, a film that would constitute his own Hollywood comeback. Bogdanovich worked over the course of decades with a team of dedicated filmmakers and film industry technicians to recreate Welles’ vision before Netflix finally came on board to push the project across the finish line.

Festival audiences will also be afforded a 360-degree look at the product and the process of making The Other Side of the Wind that will include a screening of the newly-released film itself followed by a conversation with Bogdanovich, in addition to the new Netflix documentary They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead from Academy Award-winning director Morgan Neville (Won’t You Be My Neighbor, 30 Feet from Stardom). The Festival will also present the documentary The Eyes of Orson Welles as well as Welles’ 1973 docudrama F For Fake, known for being the last completed work of his career.

Bogdanovich will also present a screening of his critically-acclaimed documentary The Great Buster, about silent film star, Buster Keaton.

Race In America – Presented with James Madison’s Montpelier

The Virginia Film Festival is partnering once again with James Madison’s Montpelier for the second annual Race in America series, exploring the complex and changing issues around what continues to be one of the most important and difficult issues of our time. This year’s series will include:

16 Bars – Todd “Speech” Thomas, noted front man of the Grammy winning hip-hop group Arrested Development spent three weeks in a Richmond, Virginia prison to deliver this glimpse into a unique rehabilitation program that provides inmates access to a makeshift recording studio.

Another Slave Narrative – Recounting the history of slavery in the United States, a multiracial cast reenacts original transcripts of federal interviews with ex-slaves in the 1930’s.

Black in Blue – Academy Award-winning filmmaker and Charlottesville resident Paul Wagner presents the story of Nate Northington, who honors the memory of his friend and fellow civil rights pioneer Greg Page by breaking the Southeastern Conference color barrier in 1967 to play football at the University of Kentucky.

Circles – Displaced by Hurricane Katrina, Eric Butler moves to Oakland, California to mentor troubled minority youth, counseling vulnerable Black and Latinx teenagers with intimate and honest mentorship.

Charlottesville – A Center for Politics film about the events of August 11 and 12 produced in collaboration with the Community Idea Stations.

The Defiant Ones – The Defiant Ones examines the partnership between Jimmy Iovine and Dr.Dre – one the son of a Brooklyn longshoreman, the other straight out of Compton – and their leading roles in a chain of transformative events in contemporary culture.

UVA Center for Politics

The Festival will continue its partnership with the UVA Center for Politics this year with a screening of the new documentary Charlottesville. Produced in conjunction with the Community Idea Stations, Charlottesville is a gripping two-hour documentary that traces the tragedies of August 11 and 12, 2017, all while asking “How could this happen in modern America?”. Firsthand accounts by victims and witnesses who woke to find riots in their backyards and murder in their streets present a compelling account of Charlottesville in the wake of shocking racial strife, religious bigotry, government blunders, and political equivocation.

The Miller Center

This year the Virginia Film Festival is again partnering with The Miller Center, a nonpartisan affiliate of the University of Virginia that specializes in presidential scholarship, public policy, and political history, and strives to apply the lessons of history and civil discourse to the nation’s most pressing contemporary governance challenges. The series will include 1968: The Year That Changed America, the fascinating documentary from executive producers Tom Hanks and Mark Herzog about one of the most tumultuous years in American history. The VAFF is proud to present two of the four episodes in the series, “Summer” and “Fall.” The series will also feature An Acceptable Loss from director Joe Chappelle that follows a former top U.S. security advisor (Tika Sumpter), who is threatened by associates from her dark past, including a steely politician (Jamie Lee Curtis). It’s a female-fronted story of obsession, collusion, and hopeful redemption.

Virginia Film Festival and National Geographic

Science Fair directed by Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster
Science Fair directed by Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster

The Festival will present a trio of heralded documentaries from National Geographic. They include: Science Fair, which follows nine high school students from disparate corners of the globe as they navigate rivalries, setbacks, and hormones on their quest to win the international science fair; Free Solo, a stunning, intimate and unflinching portrait of free soloist climber Alex Honnold, as he prepares to achieve his lifelong dream: climbing the face of the world’s most famous rock, Yosemite’s 3,000-foot El Capitan, without a rope; and Into the Okavango, the directorial debut of National Geographic photographer Neil Gelinas, who accompanied researchers on this stunning expedition down the Okavango River to discover how or why the river — which is the source of Africa’s wildlife lifeline — is drying up.

The VAFF and the Library of Congress Celebrate the National Film Registry

The Virginia Film Festival continues its unique partnership with the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Virginia in 2018 to present a series of films that celebrate the National Film Registry and the Campus’ dedication to film preservation. This year’s lineup will include a 50th anniversary screening of the George A. Romero directed zombie horror, Night of the Living Dead in a new 4K restoration; the groundbreaking, experimental 1968 documentary, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One;  a new 4K restoration of The Bride of Frankenstein, in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, and a 90th anniversary screening of the Walt Disney animated short Steamboat Willie. The Festival is delighted to welcome back longtime Turner Classic Movies host and film expert Ben Mankiewicz to support this joint program. He will lead discussions on Night of the Living Dead and The Bride of Frankenstein, in addition to joining Peter Bogdanovich for The Other Side of the Wind and The Great Buster.


Afghan Cycles – Following a new generation of young Afghan women cyclists, Afghan Cycles uses the bicycle to tell a story of women’s rights – human rights – and the struggles faced by Afghan women on a daily basis.

The Biggest Little Farm – The successes and failures of a couple determined to live in harmony with nature on a farm outside of Los Angeles are lovingly chronicled by filmmaking farmer John Chester, in this inspiring documentary.

Chef Flynn – Culinary prodigy, Flynn McGarry made it into the New York Times by the time he was sixteen. Director Cameron Yates follows McGarry as he launches his first high profile pop up restaurant and begins to outgrow the constant surveillance from his mother.

Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes
Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes

Divide and Conquer – Alexis Bloom delivers this tale of the long rise and sudden fall of the late, disgraced media industry giant Roger Ailes, from his days in the Nixon and Bush White Houses to his time at the helm of Fox News, and his ignominious ouster at the dawn of the Me Too movement.

Karenina and I -Norwegian actress Gørild Mauseth is challenged by the almost impossible task of playing Anna Karenina in a language she never spoke and in the author’s home country. She embarks on a journey throughout Russia to discover the real reasons why Tolstoy (Liam Neeson) wrote the novel. What Gørild does not know is that Anna Karenina will become the role of her life and change her forever.

The Last Race – The last surviving stock car track on Long Island, once home to over thirty, is the weekend retreat to many working-class stock car racers and enthusiasts. Director Michael Dweck documents the local enthusiasts as outside land developers begin to encroach.

Revolutionizing Dementia Care – Directed by Mason Williams and produced by the Community Idea Stations, this film reveals innovative approaches in memory care communities that are improving the well-being of patients and allowing them to live full and meaningful lives based on their abilities rather than their disabilities.

Run While You Can – Sam Fox attempts to run the Pacific Crest Trail, spanning from the Canadian to the Mexican border, in sixty days, beating the previous record. As the trail begins to take its toll on his mind and body, Fox begins to understand what his mother, who has Parkinson’s disease, goes through on a daily basis.

Studio 54
Studio 54

Studio 54 – Using footage from its heyday and interviews with two of the original owners, Studio 54 takes a look at the quick rise and fall of the most famous night club in the world. The club would usher in a new era of celebrity culture and glamour, while highlighting the legendary excesses of the era.

Spotlight on Virginia Filmmaking

Afrikana Film Festival – The VAFF is proud to partner with the Richmond-based Afrikana Film Festival for a special program of films dedicated to showcasing cinematic works by people of color from around the world, with a special focus on the global Black narrative.

American Dreamer – Directed by Virginia native Derrick Borte and starring comedian Jim Gaffigan, the film is a disturbing portrait of a down on his luck chauffeur who enters into a world of crime in a desperate effort to provide for his family.

Best of Film at Mason and Best of VCUarts – As the official film festival of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the VAFF will salute some of Virginia’s finest young filmmakers from both George Mason University and Virginia Commonwealth University in a special program that captures and celebrates the diversity of cinematic storytelling found at these institutions.

Seats at the Table – A documentary following a Russian literature class for college students and inmates at a juvenile correctional center.

The University of Virginia Bicentennial Celebration: An Evening of Performing Arts – A look at the gala, star studded celebration of the University’s 200 year anniversary.

West Main Street – An award-winning feature documentary focusing on the everyday lives and oral histories of Charlottesville residents whose lives and work revolved around the West Main Street community.

Other Virginia films include 16 Bars, Black in Blue, Charlottesville, Spider Mites of Jesus: The Dirtwoman Documentary, and short film showcases of work by UVA professors Kevin Everson and Lydia Moyer.

International Films

Border (Sweden) – From the writer of Let the Right One In, comes another film mixing realism with elements of folklore. A woman with troll-like features meets a man like herself and they begin a romance that will change her life.

Capernaum (Lebanon) – After witnessing the sale of his younger sister, a 12-year old runs away from home to live on the streets. Lacking the proper identification papers, he continues to run into the same cruelty that he faced at home. After a run in with the law, he decides to sue his parents for giving him life.

Crystal Swan (Belarus) – A young woman yearning to leave her home in Minsk to DJ in Chicago, fakes a resume in order to get her visa approved. After realizing she put the wrong phone number down for one of her fake jobs, she must track down the family the number belongs to and convince them to help her.

Dogman (Italy) – A meek dog groomer and part-time cocaine dealer seeks revenge against his sometime customer and town tyrant who has shaken him down one too many times.

The Heiresses (Paraguay) – Friends are tested by financial difficulties despite both coming from wealthy families. One takes an offer from her older, wealthy neighbor to drive her to her weekly card games. Soon, her business expands. Forced out of her comfort zone she embarks on a journey of independence.


I Am Not a Witch (United Kingdom) – In Rungano Nyoni’s directorial debut, a young girl in Zambia is sent to witch camp. Threatened that she will turn into a goat if she attempts escape, she must decide if freedom is worth the risk.

Never Look Away (Germany) – Directed by Academy Award winner, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Never Look Away tracks an artist’s career and relationships during the rise and fall of Nazi occupied Germany.

No Date, No Signature (Iran) – A forensic pathologist, Dr. Nariman, hits a motorcycle carrying a family in an accident. He urges them to take their son to a hospital, but they refuse and disappear into the night. When Dr. Nariman sees the boy has arrived deceased at his hospital and the cause of death ruled as food poisoning, he goes on a hunt for the truth.

Sunset (Hungary) – From László Nemes, the director of Son of Saul, comes this story of a woman searches for a connection to her family in 1913 Budapest and finds little help along the way.

Woman at War (Iceland) – An environmental activist plans her final demonstration after learning that she will soon become a mother.

Other films include our Centerpiece Film Roma (Mexico), and Spotlight Films,Birds of Passage (Colombia), El Angel (Argentina).

Letters of Love

Curated by Samhita Sunya, Assistant Professor of Cinema at UVA, the Letters of Love series showcases witty films from a region that is all-too-often conflated with footage of war, authoritarianism, crises, and patriarchal/sexual violence. Each film’s action takes place across the Middle East and South Asia, as they self-reflexively – and lovingly – pay homage to global genres, as well as the longstanding presence and popularity of Bollywood films in the Middle East.

Road to Kabul –  A group of friends must go on a search for one of their own after a trip to Amsterdam doesn’t go as planned.

An Indian Father – A gangster begins practicing yoga to relieve stress, falling in love with his instructor along the way. When she is taken back to her home in Bombay, he goes after her only to find that her father is a gangster himself.

Hell in India – An Egyptian ambassador is kidnapped. In a mix up, the Egyptian military band is sent to negotiate his release, in this musical.

Day Shall Dawn – A 1958 documentary showing the everyday life of the Bengali people and their isolated village.

In The Last Days of the City – A man grappling with his personal life and making his next film is sent footage from friends around the world that gives him inspiration.


Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex Fashion & Disco
Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex Fashion & Disco

Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex, Fashion and Disco – A native of Puerto Rico and raised in the Bronx, Antonio Lopez gained international recognition as one of the most influential fashion illustrators of his time. His artistic vision and commitment to diversity revolutionized the fashion world, and his natural charisma allowed him to help launch the careers of icons like Grace Jones, Jessica Lange, and Jerry Hall.

Coby – When a 23-year-old transgender Ohio woman transitions, his physical and spiritual transformation affects the lives of all who love him, and inspires them to change their perspectives.

El Angel (Argentina) – Based on the true story of Argentina’s most infamous serial killer, Carlos Rubedo Puch, who began his life of crime at seventeen. The extremity of his crimes is a stark contrast with his handsome, charming demeanor.

Jason and Shirley – A fictional retelling of the making of the influential documentary, Portrait of Jason, from the perspective of the film’s subject, hustler and cabaret performer, Jason Holliday.

Good Manners – A Brazilian fairytale that finds two women from different classes coming together over the impending birth of a supernatural child under a full moon.

Narcissister Organ Player – Through her unabashedly erotic and often humorous performances, Narcissister showcases her approach to explorations of race, gender, and sexuality. From growing up as a mixed-race child, to her complex relationship with her mother, she addresses how these circumstances compelled her to create her performance character.


Rafiki – Two women fall in love in Kenya, despite their father’s political rivalry, and Kenya’s laws against homosexuality.

Sauvage – 22-year-old Leo works in Strasbourg as a prostitute. Working mostly on a quiet road in a wooded area, he belongs to a group of men that service the motorist clientele. Leo seems to not know or desire any other kind of life, despite friends and doctors questioning his lifestyle. Leo prizes his freedom and never lets go of his ability to love and be loved.

Spider Mites of Jesus: The Dirtwoman Documentary – Richmond, Virginia natives recount their experiences with Donnie “Dirtwoman” Corker, a drag queen and pillar of the counterculture, and their influence on the community.

Sorry Angel – Arthur, an eager 22-year-old student, meets 35-year-old Jacques, a writer living in Paris with his young son. Embracing his sexual awakening, Arthur wishes to throw himself into their relationship without reservations. Jacques is hesitant to invest himself, as he struggles to come to terms with an AIDS diagnosis. The physical reality of Jacques’ illness complicates the fate of their romance, as both men realize that Arthur’s journey is just beginning as Jacques’ starts to close.

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